The Kurdish Factor

Evidence has been mounting for some time now of ‘ethnic cleansing’ type activities in Iraq’s Kurdish zone. The latest addition to the list is a piece by Washington Post reporters Steve Fainaru and Anthony Shadid. They claim to have gotten hold of a US State Department memo which states that “extra-judicial detentions” form part of a “concerted and widespread initiative” by Kurdish political parties “to exercise authority in Kirkuk in an increasingly provocative manner.

As Juan Cole argues:

Kirkuk is a powderkeg. AFter the fall of Saddam, the city of about 1 million was estimated to be about 1/3 each Turkmen, Arab and Kurdish. But many Arabs have been chased out, and many Kurds have come into the city (in many cases returning to a place from which Saddam had expelled them). Fainaru and Shadid now seem to suggest that the Kurds are about 48 percent of the population, with Turkmen and Arabs a quarter each.

The kidnapping tactics extend to Mosul and perhaps to Tel Afar.

Arab on Kurdish violence could provoke a civil war. Kurdish on Turkmen violence could bring Turkey into northern Iraq, since Ankara sees itself as a protector of Iraq’s 750,000 Turkmen.

I am finding it increasingly difficult to see how this story is going to come to an end without the disintegration of Iraq.